the wordy infidel

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Richard Dawkins, the renowned biologist, has returned to his familiar forum of the fanatically scientific with his new book The Greatest Show On Earth.  Though, to be fair, it may connote a return to his atheistic pulpit as he still seems to have a mighty, angry bee in his bonnet when it comes to people’s belief in the Christian god, or even belief in general. The new work sets out the evidence for evolution in its entirety, presumably in order to refute those fluffy headed Creationists. So it might, in the end, not be such a departure from his previous irreligious evangelic, The God Delusion.

I might be just a little bit irked by him. His views on agnostics particularly have wedged in my craw, and come off as being overly simplistic—as any nuanced consideration of that position is completely absent from his work. For that matter, his conceptualization of the landscapes of faith is, in general, devoid of the complex features many scholars find there, and belie the subtlety, something which I think is inherent to the field of religious study. His ideas concerning it all seem a bit raw. I find this disappointing.

For such a renowned thinker it is also surprising; but upon reflection, I think it may equate to an accomplished life-long metaphysician coming finally to understand the concepts of relativity late in life, the potent mental light-bulb suddenly coming on, and then setting out to write a book espousing the connection between matter and energy, as if the idea was new. Any proficient physicist reading the consequent work would be like, “Yes, I know,” but there’s nothing like the fervor of a new proselytizer.

Not to say that his issue with Creationists isn’t well founded. Joseph Campbell quite rightly pointed out that some Christians may have been shooting themselves in the foot when they started to try and marry the content of their faith to the eminence of reason, rather than just letting it be as part of a greater unseen and unknowable world. Creationists seem to keep plugging away, trying to find some pretense of science to validate their conviction. I wonder if they should really bother. What joy and wonder there is in the intangible doesn’t live in objective facts, and it should be mentioned that Darwin himself remained a Christian until the day he died. He never thought that his concept of the world invalidated any divinity.

In any case, Dawkins is out touring, and he can be quite amusingly quippy. I should have liked to have seen him at UofT a few days ago, but when it comes down to it, dealing with a fervent atheist is similar to dealing with a fervent believer of any certitude: you just don’t want to hear about it all day.

[Addendum: there is a short interview up with the man himself over at The Globe and Mail.]

On a related note, there is also this about Robert Crumb‘s new book. Via Bookslut.

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~ by A Mundi on October 1, 2009.

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